Who: “Sean Saves the World,” currently airs on network TV, specifically on NBC, Thursdays at 9:00 PM.
What: “Sean Saves the World,” a situation comedy featuring Sean Hayes (formerly of Will & Grace fame), who plays a gay father with a teenage daughter, whose mother moved away and left her behind. Sean must navigate being a full-time parent while simultaneously meeting the demands of his eccentric and task-oriented boss at work.
When: The series premiered on NBC, Thursday, October 3, 2013, at 9:00 PM.
Where: The setting of the show has not been spelled out as of this pilot. It appears to be New York City…but I have no confirmation of that.
Why: Sean Hayes, of course, played Jack McFarland on the iconic sitcom Will & Grace and, sadly, hasn’t done much since. He is an executive producer for Grimm, the cult supernatural series currently airing on NBC, and that’s all I know. I was interested in seeing what Sean could bring to the table after all these years, particularly since I did love Jack so much.
How – as in How Was It?
The pilot/premiere rating scale:
***** – I HAVE TO WATCH EVERYTHING. HOLY SMOKES!
**** – Well, it certainly seems intriguing. I’m going to keep watching, but I see possible pitfalls in the premise.
*** – I will give it six episodes and see what happens. There are things I like, and things I don’t. We’ll see which “things” are allowed to flourish.
** – I will give it three episodes. Chances are, I’m mainly bored, but there is some intrigue or fascination that could hold it together. No matter how unlikely.
* – Pass on this one, guys. It’s a snoozer/not funny/not interesting/not my cup of tea… there are too many options to waste time on this one.
Sean Saves the World = **
Sean is divorced, having discovered that he is gay shortly after marrying his ex-wife. Their union, however, produced daughter Ellie, who has moved in with Sean following her mother’s decision to move, and Ellie’s decision to stay in familiar surrounds. Sean and Ellie must navigate their new full time parent/child relationship, while Sean deals with the pitfalls of his job at an online retail company, featuring co-workers including steadfast Liz (Megan Hilty of Smash). In the meantime, Sean’s mother and he also have a complicatedly dysfunctional relationship (she’s played by Linda Lavin…it’s Alice!).
Sean Saves the World offers up a few genuine laughs, owing to Sean Hayes’ gift for physical comedy and the sassy, sarcastic delivery of Ellie, but, on the whole, it falls flat in many ways. First, this sitcom employs either a live studio audience or a laugh track – it’s unclear which one it is, but whichever one it is, the spaces of silence that usually precede laughter and reaction have been edited out, and it sounds unnatural and forced, as the laughter occurs on every last syllable of a punchline or potentially funny moment. Second, though the concept has promise, the execution and writing (despite the fact that James L. Burrows is an executive producer) falter. There is a sense that the show runners are aiming for something antic and screwball while simultaneously slowing down for tender moments between Sean and Ellie. Unfortunately, this muddied approach leaves the execution a bit messy, resulting in fewer laughs.
Sean, also, seems on the verge of replicating Jack McFarland at times, though it is clear he has chosen or been directed to exercise restraint (after all…where’s Karen to egg him on?). It could be that Sean can’t be funny without being excessively hyper and dramatic, and though he has his moments on his new show, these moments create nostalgia for the older character. His conversations with Ellie happen to be the funniest and most genuine parts of the program. On the other hand, all of the scenes in Sean’s office are awkward and seemingly out of place.
This is not to say that the show is all bad. What a nice surprise to see Linda Lavin back on television. Though her mothering character lacks warmth and, at times, feels abusive, she’s always a delight to see on the small screen. The man who plays Sean’s boss is also creepy and yet, at times, awkward enough to earn some laughs. Megan Hilty gives the old college try to the stilted dialogue she’s been given to say, but even her best efforts kind of wilt to the ground. The heart of the show is, truly, Sean and Ellie’s relationship, though without the other antagonistic and situation-related forces working in a well-executed manner, there is nothing to spark the evolution and blossoming of that relationship.
In the end, this sitcom is given two stars (or maybe 2.5 would be fairer, but I don’t know if I want to watch more than three episodes) because of Sean’s brand of comedy and his relationship with Ellie. Sadly, the show may be canceled in the near future.
Sean Saves the World can be recommended to any fan of Sean Hayes, as he is still fun to watch. Unfortunately, the rest of the show doesn’t quite fall in line with him, despite all of the efforts by some good ensemble cast members. This recommendation, then, is conditional, as I don’t think a wider audience would enjoy the show. For that reason, the show’s survival is at risk.
THE FUTURE OF THE SHOW:
According to TV Guide, Sean Saves the World is on the “bubble,” i.e. has low enough ratings that cancellation could be imminent. My prediction is that the bubble will pop for this program. I doubt that a full season will be ordered; season renewal is, therefore, the longest of shots. If you watch it, be prepared.